Tale of Nova Scotian Titanic survivor told through song

‘It really makes it real for you'

Metro Halifax thebuzz@tc.tc
Published on April 14, 2014

Rosalee Peppard portrays Hilda Mary Slayter, the only Titanic survivor from Atlantic Canada, in her one woman show titled Living Titanic.                  

©Mitch Ward - Metro Halifax


Rosalee Peppard took the stage accompanied by only a guitar, a chair, and her powerful voice. That was all she needed to narrate the sinking of the Titanic as lived by Hilda Mary Slayter.

Peppard’s performance Living Titanic was part of an event put on by the Titanic Society of the Atlantic at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in downtown Halifax to commemorate the 102nd anniversary of the luxury liner’s sinking.

Born and buried in Halifax, Slayter was the only Atlantic Canadian survivor aboard the ship that went down April 15, 1912.

Peppard, a musical oral historian focusing on women’s truth, discovered Slayter’s story and decided to make history come alive.

She blended her training as an artist with her research skills to create the musical. Slayter’s family gave Peppard access to Slayter’s journals, allowing her to narrate the performance in Slayter’s own words.

“When you read her journal, it’s amazing. She had a really great perspective. She saw awful things, but her perspective was always hopeful,” Peppard said after her hour-long performance Sunday afternoon.

Peppard, donning a costume that took 300 hours to make, weaved in and out of song as she took the audience on the journey through Slayter’s eyes.

The performance included two original songs by Peppard, as well as songs played by the ship’s orchestra and other music Slayter had known and sang herself.

She included a scene from Slayter’s journals in which Slayter removes her fur boa and fur-lined travel coat for other passengers in the lifeboat she was in as the Titanic “collapsed and slipped under the sea.”

Audience member Terry Choyce said Peppard brought the story alive.

“There’s just so many little details,” Choyce said. “We all know the story but when you see the little life details, it really makes it real for you. And the music was fantastic.”

Peppard plans to take the performance on tour in Europe next year.